on 9 March 2011
This selection of H.P. Lovecraft's shorter and longer stories is greatly benefitted by the choice of 'Dagon' as the opening story. I can still remember reading this astonishing piece of writing which compresses the very essence of Lovecraft's genius into just 6 glorious pages. Everything is there; the adjective-soaked prose which delightfully borders on the verbose, the horrific images of aquatic inter-stellar monsters and that indescribable sense of despair and madness.
My favourite story is 'The Shadow Over Insmouth' which is like an expanded version of 'Dagon'. I have re-read this one many times. There are many other great works in this selection besides these two including the truly terrifying 'The Colour Out Of Space' and 'Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family' which has a horrible twist at the end.
Not every story is a classic and some strike me as resembling other better Lovecraft stories too much. However, this drawback has a silver lining in that the reader can clearly see Lovecraft's obsession with a relatively small number of themes and, in my opinion, obsession has its own special brand of power that is not all bad.
This book is fantastic in that it gives the reader a substantial taste of Lovecraft's work while still leaving a good portion of his work to be discovered afterwards if desired. It is thoroughly recommended!
on 29 April 2005
This volume contains the stories: Dagon, Randolph Carter, Arthur Jermyn, Celephais, Nyarlathotep, Picture in the House, Outsider, Herbert West, Hound, Rats in the Walls, Festival, He, Cool Air, Call of Cthulhu, Colour out of Space, Whisperer in Darkness, Shadow Over Innsmouth, Haunter of the Dark, as well as a fourteen page Introduction by Joshi (the foremost scholar on Lovecraft), a suggestion for further reading, a note on the text, and an extra sixty pages of explanatory notes.
This is an excellent collection of Lovecraft stories with a lot of interesting notation and material on his background, his childhood, his inspirations for each story, and various other pieces of fascinating information. It is also, in my opinion, the strongest of the three current Penguin collections of his work, containing as it does the superb Colour out of Space, Shadow over Innsmouth, and Call of Cthulhu (my favourite). Each story is annotated with numbered reference points which can be a bit distracting at first but doesn't really get in the way of your enjoyment of the stories, and provides fascinating insight into the use of certain words, the origins of characters' names, towns and events that influenced the plot, etc. In addition, each of these stories are the definitive editions compiled by Joshi himself, making this currently one of the best Lovecraft collections in the UK. Highly recommended.
on 13 August 2000
This volume, in its own small, quiet way, is a momentous book. Momentous not for being necessarily the best collection of Lovecraft's stories (there are plenty of others to choose from) but because it marks the passage of Lovecraft's reputation from the genre ghetto to the broader realms of literature.
Consider this: Lovecraft's career ran parallel with that of Jon Dos Passos (Lovecraft was six years older). Dos Passos' first novel, 'Manhattan Transfer' was published in 1926, the same year as 'The Call of Cthulhu' made its debut appearance in the pulp magazine 'Weird Tales'. Yet while Dos Passos went on to achieve great acclaim for his subsequent novels, Lovecraft's writing remained ignored during his life outside a small group of enthusiastic magazine writers and readers. 'Cthulhu' when first published didn't even rate cover status in the magazine, that honour being granted to Elliot O'Donnell and some ridiculous piece of his called 'The Ghost Table'. At Lovecraft's early death in 1937 he was recognised as a modern master of the horror story by his friends but to the world outside he was invisible; no collections of his stories had been published, his work languished in the crumbling pages of the pulps.
Sixty years on, after the heroic efforts of August Derleth at Arkham House, who put his own money into publishing the first Lovecraft collections, Howard Phillips Lovecraft finally has his place in the sun (probably an inapt metaphor, he used to spend all day with the curtains drawn). The stories are in print all over the world, there's a growing body of critical writing about his work and spin-off items in the form of comics, games, films, music, etc. show how far his reputation has travelled. It's a simple fact that powerful work in any medium cannot be kept down, however humble its origins; the 'Chants de Maldoror' of Isidore Ducasse (Lautreamont) followed a similar path from obscurity to cult renown (among the Surrealists) to world fame. Lovecraft's champions along the way have included some real heavyweights such as Jorge Luis Borges (who dedicated a story, 'There are More Things', to him) and William Burroughs ('Cities of the Red Night' contains references to "Kutulu, the Sleeping Serpent").
So here he is finally, a classic of the Twentieth Century, complete with the usual well-chosen Penguin cover art; for this edition it's a painting by the apocalyptic Romantic John 'Mad' Martin. The book has an excellent introduction by the world's leading Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi who also provides sixty pages of notes for references in the stories. The texts are taken from the definitive versions compiled by Joshi for the editions Arkham House put out ten years ago, correcting many accumulated typos that had dogged the works since original publication. The story selection tries to cover the whole of Lovecraft's career and includes some of his weaker, more fantastical material. I personally would have preferred a different selection ('Herbert West - Reanimator' is not one of his best stories) but then every fan would probably have a different choice of their own. For a curious reader this is a great place to start and its status in the Penguin canon may serve to draw some to Lovecraft who would have shunned the garish packaging of a horror paperback. Some of us have known for years this stuff was the business, it's satisfying to have these feelings reinforced. Well done Howard.
on 29 May 2010
In a video interview I conducting with this book's editor, S. T. stated that he thought this was the very best of all of his editions of H. P. Lovecraft's tales, because of its selection. S. T. Joshi has spent the better part of his life bringing us H. P. Lovecraft's texts as Lovecraft wanted them preserved. We remember that, when Lovecraft first submitted his stories to Weird Tales, he wrote to the editor, "Should any miracle impel you to consider the publication of my tales, I have but one condition to offer: and that is that no excisions be made. If a tale cannot be printed as it is written, down to the very last semicolon and comma, it must gracefully accept rejection." This is from Lovecraft before he was selling regularly to a professional market; obviously, he had an artistic vision and wanted it preserved as he created it. S. T. Joshi has worked to correct the blunders and misreadings and (in some audacious instances) the rewriting of Lovecraft's tales, so that we now have his texts as close to his originals as is perhaps possible.
Lovecraft was a cautious writer, and his style is exactly what he wanted it to be. If he is at times extravagant, it is because he so chooses. Some people have moaned at the style of "The Hound," but it seems perfect for the tale being told. I love the story and do not want to believe, as S. T. seems to, that it was written as partial parody of Lovecraft's style. Lovecraft came to dismiss so much of what to me is his really fascinating work, such as "The Outsider" and "The Hound." The wonderful and intriguing thing about what has been called Lovecraft's "lesser" work is that these tales are still extremely interesting and effective. They are very unusual and they have a kind of spell (over me, at least) that never fades, I return to them again and again.
I've been entranced with the figure of Nyarlathotep, to the point where I have just completed an entire book of tales concerning ye Crawling Chaos. The original prose poem of Lovecraft's concerning this enigmatic creature is in this book. Nyarlathotep is mentioned in future works, also collected here, such as the amazing and potent "The Rats in the Walls" and the fascinating "The Whisperer in Darkness." (This latter story has recently been filmed by the eldritch folks at The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, the same people who gave us the remarkable silent film version of "The Call of Cthulhu." Judging from the trasiler, their cinematic treatment of "The Whisperer in Darkness" will be absolutely faithful to Lovecraft's magnificent story!)
"The Haunter of the Dark" is my all-time favourite story by Lovecraft. I love its sense of Gothic mystery, the evocative church and its nameless history, and the queer fate of its protagonist. It has been said that Lovecraft, had he lived on, would have deserted Gothic horror absolutely and concentrated on writing tales of science fiction, but I find the idea absurd. This was his last completed story, and it is supernatural in the peculiar way that Lovecraft's work treats the supernatural. It is a story that really does haunt one. A superb recent cinematic treatment of the film was shown at last year's H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival -- a film called, strangely, PICKMAN'S MUSE.
This is a fine collection of H. P. Lovecraft's weird fiction, complete with a wonderful Introduction by S. T. Joshi and containing his annotations and notes for each tale. The three editions of Lovecraft's tales from Penguin are, for me, the very best editions of Lovecraft. S. T. Joshi feels that this is his very best single edition of Lovecraft's tales.
The Statement of Randolph Carter
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
The Picture in the House
The Rats in the Walls
The Call of Cthulhu
The Colour out of Space
The Whisperer in Darkness
The Shadow over Innsmouth
The Haunter of the Dark
on 3 March 2014
This was my first taste of anything by H.P. Lovecraft, though I knew roughly of his work by reputation: a master of horror, a very American writer, with more than a hint of racism. Is that what I found here? Sort of.
Given the various compilations of his work that have been put together, it’s worth noting that this particular collection contains the following stories: Dagon, The Statement of Randolph Carter, Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, Celepaïs, Nyarlathotep, The Picture in the House, The Outsider, The Hound, The Rats in the Walls, The Festival, He, Cool Air, The Call of Cthulhu, The Colour Out of Space, The Whisperer in Darkness, The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Haunter of the Dark.
These are roughly in chronological order, which shows. The earlier stories here are relatively short and punchy while the later ones are better developed. Indeed, the accompanying notes raise a point I noticed in that some of the later stories appear to be revisions and expansions upon the earlier ones. For example, the Call of the Cthulhu is recognisable as an alternative take on Dagon; also, Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family seems to be the seed out which grew the longest story here, The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
Before reading, having heard that it was horror, I was expecting something either like a ghost story, like a James Herbert, or more gruesome, like Stephen King. It was neither. In this respect it was a pleasant surprise. That’s not to say that there isn’t some gruesomeness here, with Cool Air possibly topping the lot in that respect. The frustrating thing early on was that Lovecraft omitted the detail almost entirely, so we get descriptions like ‘[what I witnessed was too horrible to put to paper]’. It ought to be noted that most of the stories are written in the first person, with each central character speaking with roughly the same voice, making it seem as though Lovecraft was a single character going through one disastrous lifetime to another, being reincarnated multiple times.
What did strike me, however, was how alarmingly modern his writing was. Most of the stories here were written in the early 1920s, yet there is little here to indicate them as such; had someone told me they were written in the last 10 years, I would not have instantly thought the notion absurd. Indeed, his timeline is far closer to that of Thomas Hardy than it is to my own lifetime, but one could hardly guess at this. The biggest downside to his writing that I found was his predictability; almost every story had an ending that could be guessed fairly early on. The later stories were less predictably, though I don’t think I was ever particularly surprised. They are, however, very entertaining. Not a single one was a great struggle to read, though Lovecraft does, at times, stumble over his words slightly which makes it a little clunky. But that’s a relatively small criticism.
What about the supposition of racism? Well, there are some attitudes demonstrated here which do make for uncomfortable reading, and not in the good way that a horror writer might hope for. If anything, I would say it is most prevalent in Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, though on reading the rather extensive notes at the back of the volume, the majority of the thinking about his views on race come out in his extensive letter writing which is not included here, except for small snippets of a few letters.
By some way, The Call of Cthulhu is the best story of the bunch. The other, later stories, are also good, though the grand scale which Lovecraft manages to evoke from fairly a small-scale start is very well done. The general mythology which he develops throughout the stories, with Cthulhu being alluded to later on, along with Nyarlathotep’s appearance in more than just the story bearing his name, make for almost an alternative world. Yet Lovecraft has not delved into the fantasy realms of Tolkein or Lewis. Rather, it’s a world just slightly different from ours, shifted by a tiny amount, where the monsters which be there always may now been heard or their shadows glimpsed.
And if you read The Rats in the Walls, it’s best not to then move to a new home where you can hear the water in the pipes of a night.
on 28 June 2002
A fine collection of stories by a terrific story teller enhanced by anotations by the editor detailing references to places & times mentioned in the stories, such as in Shadow Over Innsmouth, where he gives details on what real town it is based on & where he got the ideas for his stories.
A real treat for any H.P. fan.
on 27 April 2009
Very faithful readings of the classic stories. Ian Fairbain is himself a cult legend and handles his tales with aplomb. Gareth David-Lloyd is offers his warm Welsh tones which rest very easily upon the ear. A must for fans of Lovecraft or either of these cult actors!
on 23 July 2014
Maybe it's because we have become inured to the idea of hideous malevolent aliens interfering with our planet by the likes of Dr Who and decades of SF and horror films, but the idea of someone going into shock through the simple sight of such an intruder seems rather quaint. But it happens all the time in Lovecraft.
I should probably have read Lovecraft as a teenager - I imagine I would have loved it then. But now, while I accept that he is someone every SF fan should dip into as an "important" read, and while I finished the book and quite enjoyed it, I'm not planning to read any more of his stuff - I find his stories too "samey".
H.P. Lovecraft is one of the greats of the Cosmic Horror genre and this collection contains eighteen of his short stories, all of which are quite enjoyable and interesting to read. I have always wanted to read some of Lovecraft's stories but have never gotten around to it until now and I can definitely see why he is a celebrated author. The stories in this collation are all brilliantly atmospheric and although the stories were written almost a hundred years now, meaning they have a somewhat antiquated writing style, they still remain relatively easy to read. The only real downside of the stories in the collection is that some of Lovecraft's attitudes that come across in some of his works can be offensive to some but they were probably relatively commonplace for the time they were written.
While all the stories in the collection are interesting, I would say that the quality of the stories definitely improves as the book goes on with my favourites of the eighteen probably being 'The Call of Cthulhu', 'The Whisper in the Darkness' and the truly brilliant 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth'. On the other hand, while by no means bad, my least favourite stories in the collection are probably 'Celephaïs' and 'Nyarlathotep' due to their very short and insubstantial nature. I was also not much of a fan of 'The Rats in the Walls' but I am not entirely sure why.
The book also includes an interesting Introduction about Lovecraft himself, as well as extensive explanatory notes on all the stories included and further reading ideas.
Overall this collection is a very good introduction to the works of H.P. Lovecraft and I will definitely be looking into reading some of his other stories in the future. I feel that this book is easily worth a solid four stars.
on 20 April 2007
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) is a name synonomous with most horror fiction fans; and one can easily see why once one reading the first few sentences of his beautiful prose.
Most of the stories contained in this teriffic compilation are of 'short' veriety - with some noticeably lengthier. They deal with all sorts of strange beasts and ideas; from creepy old men in the backwoods of New England, Zombies, unseen ghouls and massive god-like monsters.
Of course, these stories would hold up without the assistance of explanatary notes which occuply the end of this particular volume; however, editor ST Joshi's notes complement these stories brillinatly, providing an interesting backstory on some of the more curious passages, and offer exhaustive information on the inspiration for the fiction.
Joshi's introduction is also excellent, offering a short biography of Lovecraft's brief and tragic life.
Even though Lovecraft's fiction has been collected in various other volumes for dacades, this (along with 'Thing on the Doorstep' and 'Dreams in the Witch House') is the difinative version of the stories collected in this volume, and it will offer hours of reading pleasure.